The Socio-Economic Rights And Accountability Project (SERAP) has sued the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) over events during the 2023 general election.
In a statement made available to newsmen on Sunday, SERAP warned the electoral commission to promptly identify and arrest perpetrators of electoral violence or risk lawsuits.
“We would be grateful if immediate steps are taken to implement the recommended measures within seven days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall consider appropriate legal actions to compel INEC to comply with our request in the public interest,” the rights organisation said.
The SERAP, in a statement made available on Sunday, April 30, said it was asking the court for “an order of mandamus compelling INEC to seek the appointment of an independent counsel to investigate allegations of electoral offences against state governors and their deputies during the 2023 elections.”
In a suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/583/2023 before the Federal High Court, Abuja, SERAP is also seeking “an order of mandamus compelling INEC to promptly, thoroughly and effectively investigate reports of electoral violence and other electoral offences committed during the elections, identify suspected perpetrators and their sponsors, and ensure their effective prosecution.”
The organisation argued that suspected perpetrators and their sponsors had “clearly” acted in violation of constitutional provisions, international standards and the Electoral Act by allegedly engaging in electoral violence and other electoral offences “in so blatant a fashion.”
SERAP reiterated that prosecuting politicians and their sponsors suspected involved in electoral offences would end the impunity of perpetrators.
“It would also advance Nigerians’ right to freely participate in their own government,” it said. SERAP further argued that addressing the brazen impunity and reports of electoral violence and other electoral offences during the 2023 general elections would send a strong message to politicians that they would be held to account for any infringement of the electoral process.
The suit, filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers, Kolawole Oluwadare, Andrew Nwankwo and Blessing Ogwuche, added: “Election violence is a threat to fair and representative elections.
“Election violence is inconsistent and incompatible with the principles of democracy, the rule of law, transparency and accountability for politicians to allegedly use violence to disrupt the electoral process.
“Section 52 of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act allows INEC to seek the appointment of an independent counsel to probe allegations of electoral violence and other electoral offences that may have been committed by any state governors and/or their deputies.
“When politicians and their sponsors decide to engage in electoral violence and other electoral offences rather than contest fairly for people’s votes, there are possibilities that such politicians will disregard democratic rules, and a disposition to adopt illegal means becomes inevitable.
“Ending impunity for electoral violence and other electoral offences would promote accountability of suspected perpetrators and their sponsors, ensure justice for victims, and ultimately advance the people’s right to vote and bolster voter confidence in the electoral process.
“Electoral violence and other electoral offences reportedly committed during the 2023 general elections are contrary to the express provisions of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], the Electoral Act and international standards.
“The Nigerian Constitution provides in Section 14(1)(c) that ‘the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured following the provisions of this Constitution.’
“Sections 121 and 127 of the Electoral Act prohibit electoral bribery and undue influence before, during and after any election.
“Section 145(2) provides that, ‘a prosecution under this Act shall be undertaken by legal officers of INEC or any legal practitioner appointed by it.’ Under section 2(b), the commission ‘shall have the power to promote knowledge of sound democratic election processes.’
“According to a report by the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), several polling units recorded violence and/or fighting across the country.
“These violent incidents were often focused in political strongholds of opposition or perceived opponents, which suggest that the use of BVAS – which limits overvoting when properly used – has resulted in a more concerted effort to stymie citizens casting their votes in opponent’s strongholds.
“Similar incidents of intimidation were reported in the six geo-political zones.
“In several states, political thugs, apparently with the support of law enforcement officials, disrupted and sent back voters intending to vote for opposition parties. Party agents were reported to be directing people who to vote for, while those unwilling to do as directed were denied ballot papers and forced to leave the polling units.
“There were reports of destruction of used ballot papers and vandalization of entire polling units in some states. Violence was also used to target BVAS machines in order to disrupt the process and ensure the cancellation of results.
“According to the CDD, there are reports of vote-trading in zones across the country, with both cash and goods used by all political parties in an effort to entice voters to cast their ballots at their direction. The CDD noted vote buying at polling units during the elections across the country.”
Meanwhile, the Labour Party (LP) has insisted that the 2023 presidential election was massively rigged in favour of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
The party, in a statement on Friday by its Acting National Secretary, Obiorah Ifoh said the APC did not win the election but stole the election.
LP made the submission in response to an earlier claim by President Muhammadu Buhari that the opposition parties lost the 2023 election due to overconfidence, complacency and bad tactical moves, Naija News reports.
But Ifoh said the President was totally wrong with his submission as the LP won the election, but it was stolen by the APC.
He added that the 2023 presidential election is the worst Nigeria has recorded since 1999 till date as it was riddled with violence, ballot snuffing, snatching and manipulations of results.
The LP scribe also accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of creating room for the election to be rigged by failing to adhere to the 2022 electoral act and failing to upload results in real-time as promised.
According to Ifoh in his statement, Buhari’s “position on the outcome of the said election was false, untrue, and it is not a true reflection of what played out during the election.
“There are several reasons why opposition political parties lost the 2023 election; the first is that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC snubbed the electoral act wherein it failed to upload the result from the polling unit in real time as promised and in disregard to the laws guiding the election. The INEC by so doing, created room for that election to be rigged.”
He further claimed the “current APC president-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu didn’t win the election, because the said election, particularly, the presidential election was manipulated and rigged beyond comprehension. So political parties didn’t lose the election because of overconfidence or complacency as proffered by Mr. President. APC in collaboration with the various government agencies simply rigged the election and rigged themselves into power.
“Let me remind Mr President of the magnitude of violence, ballot snuffing, snatching and manipulations of results from the collation centres using security agencies, which included police, army amongst others as well as thugs to manipulate elections in favour of the ruling party.
“Recently, we saw the show of shame that took place in Adamawa. What played out in Adamawa was a microcosm of what played out all over the states during the February 25 and March 18 elections in Nigeria. Why the case of Adamawa was given huge publicity and attention because of the involvement of an INEC National commissioner who was a victim, thus forcing INEC to take prompt action.
“From Lagos to Rivers, from north to southern parts of the country, all over, violence characterised that election. In most cases, some agents and supporters were not allowed access to the polling units,” the party chieftain claimed